‘My god he won easy’ – Marine Nationale defeats Facile Vega to win Supreme in style.
At 9-2, Marine Nationale defeated Facile Vega to win the first race of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival. The race was won by Irish-trained horses, with the first eight going home.
Marine Nationale, who was owned and trained by Barry Connell, who had spoken highly of him prior to Cheltenham, tagged on to the back of the well-backed favorite Facile Vega and went smoothly through the race.
Facile Vega sprinted through the field to take the lead at the final hurdle and kicked clear between the two remaining obstacles. However, Marine Nationale, who won under jockey Michael O’Sullivan after a questionable jump from Facile Vega over the last, quickly chased him down.
O’Sullivan said: “That’s unbelievable and a massive relief, for Barry for having the faith in me and for the team at home – they work so hard.
“The horse is just incredible. Turning in there I wasn’t sure what I was holding on to but my god he actually won easy. Barry stuck his chest out and he was right.”
Connell, a former stockbroker who rode as an amateur rider, said the performance gave him “an unbelievable buzz”. He added: “I put my neck up above the parapet about six months ago before the Royal Bond and said I’d never had a horse as quick as this.
“I knew coming into the race I had the best horse in the race and the best rider in the race and everything went according to plan. We’re coming back here for the double tomorrow [with Good Land in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle].”
Facile Vega came in second, followed by Diverge, whose stablemate Diverge was trained by Willie Mullins. The British-trained runners’ first home was Strong Leader, who finished ninth.
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